Pittsburgh Steelers of past, present, and future and their families might just sleep a little better in the evenings.
On Wednesday morning folks from around the NFL made mention a revised settlement agreement that was between the players (past and present) and the league with regards to treating retired players who develop neurocognitive conditions that qualify. The original settlement was originally capped at $765 million. And while that seems like a considerable amount of money, there was plenty of outrage that there was even a cap to begin with. The revision from the original agreement is huge – no cap whatsoever.
The National Football League and counsel for the retired player plaintiffs announced today a revised settlement agreement in the NFL concussion litigation pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In the revised agreement the NFL’s obligations under the monetary award fund will not be capped at any specified amount. This means that once the compensation program is established funds will be available to any retired player who develops a qualifying neurocognitive condition. The revised settlement agreement is the result of several months of intensive work under the supervision of presiding Judge Anita B. Brody and the Court’s special master, Perry Golkin. The parties are grateful to Judge Brody and Special Master Golkin for their guidance in helping to reach the agreement submitted for preliminary approval today. Consistent with the settlement announced last year, the revised agreement provides a wide range of benefits to retired NFL players and their families, including a separate fund to offer all eligible retirees a comprehensive medical exam and follow-up benefits, and an injury compensation fund for retirees who have suffered cognitive impairment, including dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or ALS. Where the retiree is deceased or unable to pursue his claim, a family member may do so on his behalf. While actuarial estimates from both parties supported the $765 million settlement that was announced in August, this new agreement will ensure funds are available to any eligible retired player who develops a compensable injury. “This agreement will give retired players and their families immediate help if they suffer from a qualifying neurocognitive illness, and provide peace of mind to those who fear they may develop a condition in the future,” said co-lead plaintiffs’ counsel Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss. “This settlement guarantees that these benefits will be there if needed, and does so without years of litigation that may have left many retired players without any recourse.” “Today’s agreement reaffirms the NFL’s commitment to provide help to those retired players and their families who are in need, and to do so without the delay, expense and emotional cost associated with protracted litigation. We are eager to move forward with the process of court approval and implementation of the settlement,” said NFL Senior Vice President Anastasia Danias. The agreement also provides that the NFL will set aside $10 million for education on concussion prevention, as well as pay the costs of providing notice to the class and for administration of the settlement. If the Court grants preliminary approval, retired players will be formally notified of the settlement, with a final approval hearing likely to occur later this year.
This is a huge relief coming to current retirees who might be suffering from any of the aforementioned neurocognitive conditions mentioned in the NFL’s statement. It’s a shame that it took this long to come this far. Many in Steeler Nation probably remember former offensive lineman Justin Strzelczyk’s horrifying death from a collision with a tanker truck during a high speed chase. His death helped open the door to the football = brain damage link, but if such a program and settlement already existed, he might have received the help needed to properly treat what many thought became a bipolar disorder after retiring from football. Strzelczyk was only 36 when he died.
Steelers football is smash mouth football on both sides of the ball. I’m sure many of us would lose count if we tried to recount the bone jarring hits dished out and taken over the last 25 years. Troy Polamalu is at the top of my list of one who will unfortunately suffer from one of these conditions at some point after he hangs up his cleats. He’s suffered numerous concussions from his “launch” style of hitting receivers. He’s admittedly returned to the field while still trying to shake out the cobwebs of a big hit (prior to the new concussion rules of course). Hopefully the unlimited amount of funds available to him will help find positive ways to treat any potential condition/disease that might crop up.
Some might see this as a big PR move by the NFL – and it just might be – but, the bottom line is that ALL players that have worn the emblem on a jersey will get real and available treatment should they and their families need it. And, hopefully the prevention program will go a long way with the $10 million contribution. Would love to have seen more money on that as well, but it’s a step in the right direction.